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  • Writer's pictureNoelle Brandmier


This week, I have the honor of pairing a wine with a game that I witnessed being made from start to finish. I've wanted to attempt pairing Deathstate for a while now. It originally released in December of 2015, a few years before I started this whole wine and game pairing project. However, the game just released on Switch this week! So I've decided its finally time to pair it.

Before I get to the pairing part, I'd like to tell you about my relationship with Deathstate. Deathstate is significant to me because I'm part of the studio (Bread Machine Games/Workinman Interactive) that made it. While I didn't really have any hand in its creation, I watched my friends and co-workers pour a lot of heart and soul into this game. It's mainly the monstrous little child of Matt Leffler (the lead developer) and Peter Lazarski (the art director), two really great guys who thoroughly love Dark Souls and tons of other wonderfully odd creepy things. As a game studio with about 20 something employees, I'd say 90% of our work is for clients. We've only released two IP games in all of our 10+ years of existence, and Deathstate was the first. It was a big deal to us. As an artist and animator, my specialties lie neither in pixel art nor in the realm of creepy things, so there wasn't really much I could offer to Deathstate. But when the time came to start testing, I fondly remember nights where we'd order pizza and stay late playing through the game and firing off bugs to Leffler (who of course seemed simultaneously frustrated and glad for our help). When the game released, we had a big party at our favorite bar and we set up a TV with the game in the party room. We'd do occasional runs while drinking and eating and celebrating, and when one of us actually completed a whole run and beat the boss...the room erupted into a ridiculous amount of hoots and hollers. Even the kitchen staff stopped what they were doing to watch us celebrate that moment. We brought Deathstate to PAX East twice, and were featured in the Indie Mega Booth. I felt so proud and cool to say "Oh yeah, my team has a booth!" It was incredibly unique to go to that convention and have a home base to send people to and also regroup at. I made enemy plushies for the office's white elephant gift exchange that year (I borrowed them back from my friend so that they could photo bomb this wine and game pairing pic). I don't have the priviledge of working with either of the main creators at this point. In fact, a lot of the folks who worked on that game have gone their separate ways from our studio. Because of that, these memories are slightly bittersweet, they represent a time gone by. And yet Deathstate also represents a time of pride, creativity, and teamwork in my life. So if you ask me, that's pretty darn cool.

Now if you're not familiar with the gameplay of Deathstate, let me sum it up for you. Its a rogue-like bullet hell set in a world of inter-dimensional travel...and the dimensions you're exploring are not pleasant ones. You collect relics and organs to buff up your abilities in hopes of extending your survival just a little bit longer. You traverse horrific planes of existence filled with an overflowing amount of cthulian and demonic creatures. All of these things run at you like you're the best piece of meat they've seen in a long time. You'll unlock and be able to play as multiple characters throughout the game, each with their own unique abilities (though if you ask me, the scientist or floating eye are your best bet). As I'm writing this, several of the songs keep popping into my head and I'm reminded of what an incredible job our sound designers did with the music. I've only beaten the game once, and that's enough for me, but most of my friends have played through every character, every mode, and every level of difficulty because they are just so infatuated with the game. I'd say I'm biased, but this isn't my standard type of game and I couldn't stop playing it once I got my own copy.

A game as dark, rich, and full of love(craftian) horror as Deathstate should be enjoyed with a wine of equal gravitas. SAVED red blend is robust, bold, and determined to leave an impression upon your palette, just like our game. The notes are full of jammy berry-cherry flavors, baking spices, black pepper, tobacco and a touch of oak. I love how much is going on in this wine, the flavor and finish are long, strong and generous. And do you see that label design? The diamond shape reminds me of the dimensional portals in Deathstate. There are tons of little glyphs in the label that peak my curiosity and raise questions without answering them, much like the lore of the game. It feels otherworldly.

So finally, I'd like to leave you with these quotes from the winemakers that I found on their website... "SAVED Wines is an artistic expression of the Freedom of Craft...The name SAVED represents the freedom and sanctuary you get by committing fully to your passions."

And if that isn't relatable to making your own indie games...I don't know what is.

The PAX East Deathstate Crew: (Right to Left) Devin Strehle, Matt Eduardo, Matt Leffler and Pete Lazarski

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